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October 08, 2014

Redfish Server Specification Could Eliminate Data Center Vendor Lock-In

Industry leaders in hardware manufacturing are working on a new hardware management specification called Redfish that supports out-of-band management and multi-vendor compatibility, which has important implications for the growing data center business model in particular.

According to the specification’s developers, out-of-band management offers a way to control the hardware, even if the machine is not powered on or if the operating system is not functioning or installed. Redfish prescribes a set of commands that a server’s baseboard management controller should respond to, so data center operators can control different aspects of a server’s operation from across the network.

Redfish is a joint project of Dell, Emerson Network Power, HP and Intel (News - Alert) — all big hardware manufacturers who have an interest in improving hardware compatibility. According to the collaborators, Redfish aims to replace a widely used out-of-band specification developed in 1998, the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI). IPMI is no longer interoperable across different brands of servers, and is straining to meet the requirements of today’s massive multi-scale environments.

Because IPMI is not interoperable across different brands of servers, data centers are locked into using only one vendor’s service. Redfish, however, is designed to be extensible, which enables vendors to support their own features by extending the standard without breaking compatibility.

The manufacturers are motivated by the increase in huge data center expansions, thanks to the emergence of cloud computing, social media and mobile technology, among other factors.

“Companies like Facebook (News - Alert) have these big scale-out data centers, and that is a very hard market to address right now,” said Peter Kueth, product marketing manager for Emerson (News - Alert) Network Power, an Emerson business division that specializes in IT infrastructure equipment, in an article for PC Weekly.

Redfish reportedly could also be used to control network switches, power distribution systems, storage servers, and other network connected devices.

The IT standards body Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) is expected this week to adopt the specification as a standard and create a working group for its final development.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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